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US Special Operations Command wants to equip small teams of operators with advanced smart-soldier gear to stay connected with intel assets anywhere in the world — even if they have to tap into commercial phone networks.

Many of the technologies SOCOM wants to give the operator — such as facial recognition systems — already exist in the commercial space, so officials are looking to integrate commercial-off-the-shelf and government-off-the-shelf materials into a consolidated solution.

The US Army has already got smart-soldier equipment such as Nett Warrior, a smartphone-based system that plugs into a tactical network to give small-unit leaders access to drone feeds and other battlefield sensors. But a new system, the Hyper Enabled Operator system is now being designed for units such as Special Forces teams that work with partner nations to build their internal defense, as well as conduct unconventional warfare operations in extremely remote areas of the world.

The goal is to give operators the same capability they have with commercial smartphones in the United States while they are operating anywhere in the world, said Lisa Sanders, director of Science and Technology for Special Operations Forces, Acquisition, Technology & Logistics.

The Hyper Enabled Operator program is designed to combine existing communications and data analytics technology into a tactical system that allows isolated special operations teams to gather and analyze battlefield intelligence to help them make decisions faster than ever before. 

The program conducted an operational assessment using beyond-line-of-sight communications gear last month, Sanders said.

According to military.com, the Hyper Enabled Operator effort is emerging out of SOCOM’S failed Iron Man suit effort, launched in 2013 as the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) to equip operators with a futuristic suit that featured full-body armor protection and enhanced physical performance capabilities.